The Week In Links - Feb 8, 2019

» Cal Newport on Why We’ll Look Back at Our Smartphones Like Cigarettes

It’s a fair analogy, I think. I’m not ready to trade my iPhone in for a flip hone, but I’m rethinking my relationship with my phone and with social media in particular.

» Watch a Homemade Robot Crack a SentrySafe Combination Safe in 15 Minutes

Last Christmas, Nathan Seidle’s wife gave him a second-hand safe she’d found on Craigslist. It was, at first glance, a strange gift. The couple already owned the same model, a \$120 SentrySafe combination fire safe they’d bought from Home Depot. But this one, his wife explained, had a particular feature: The original owner had locked it and forgotten the combination. Her challenge to Seidle: Open it.

Impressive.

» Random Travel Hacks

There are some great tips in here, and he uses the same backpack I do. I should probably write a similar post at some point, I’ve accumulated a number of tips and tricks myself.

» My Travel Packing List Shortcut

Another travel related tip, this one for using Shortcuts. I’ve done something similar, and it’s a life saver. I’m generally a bit anxious when traveling anyway, and I find that having a detailed checklist for packing (almost 100 items on mine), as well as other things that have to be done, makes a huge difference in my level of anxiety.

» Microsoft’s fonts catch out another fraudster—this time in Canada

Lesson: when forging documents allegedly from many years ago, make sure you choose fonts that were around then.

» How will Apple redesign the iPad home screen?

As a heavy user of the 2018 12.9” iPad Pro, I’m keenly interested in what iOS 13 will bring. Redesigning the home screen to be more functional is high on my wish list. Jason Snell has a great take on this at Macworld.

I don’t know how radical a makeover Apple’s planning for the iPad home screen, but I hope it will provide us with more than a new view into the same old collection of apps. I like my iPhone home screen to be simple, but it’s small. My iPad screen is bigger than the one on my MacBook—it deserves to host a home screen that’s got more functionality and density than the one the iPad has suffered with for its entire existence.

» The Big List of Naughty Strings is a list of strings which have a high probability of causing issues when used as user-input data.

The Big List of Naughty Strings is an evolving list of strings which have a high probability of causing issues when used as user-input data. This is intended for use in helping both automated and manual QA testing

Handy.

» Thinking Different: Keys to Adopting an iPad-First Workflow

I’m not iPad-first, but I’m definitely using it for more tasks that I would have used a Mac for a few years ago. Writing this, for instance.

Before the iPad Pro debuted in late 2015, transitions from Mac to iPad were extremely scarce. The iPad’s hardware and software were both far too limited to compel many switchers. The software has advanced since that time – thanks to Split View, drag and drop, and Files, it’s far easier to work on an iPad than before – but there’s plenty more progress still to be made. The hardware, however, is where the iPad has shined most, especially with the newest iPad Pros.

A Collection of Links About Github Actions

Github Actions is really intriguing, and I’m excited to get my hands on it. It’s not enabled for my account yet, but once it is I’m going to dive in and automate a bunch of things, starting with the publishing of this blog (which I currently do with AWS CodeBuild).

While I wait paitently-ish, I’ve collected some links to things I’ve read about it.

» GitHub Actions: built by you, run by us

The blog post where Github announced Actions. Good place to start if you have no idea what I’m talking about.

» Features • GitHub Actions

A high level overview of the features Github Actions has.

» The Changelog #331: GitHub Actions is the next big thing with Kyle Daigle, Director of Ecosystem Engineering at GitHub

The Changelog podcast interviews Kyle Daigle of Github to talk about Actions.

» A redone blog, again - Arktronic.com

A fairly common task, I suspect: automating the publishing of content when it’s pushed to Github. I’ll be doing this soon myself. Even if it’s not something you need, this is a good intro to what you can use Actions for.

» Introducing Github Actions

An introduction to Github Actions, from Sarah Drasner. This is a great overview.

» Getting started with Github Actions

Nice guide to getting started.

» Jessie Frazelle’s Blog: The Life of a GitHub Action

An in-depth look at what happens when an action runs, from @jessfraz. As an aside, if you’re not following her on Twitter, you should. She’s smart and works on some very cool things.

» nektos/act: Run your GitHub Actions locally

This is really exciting - run actions locally for testing. I haven’t played with this just yet, but I will soon.

» Github Actions

An open source list of Github Actions (via David Boyne). There are a lot here already, and they look useful. Adding a new one is as simple as submitting a pull request on Github.

» Awesome Actions

This is a great collection of resources, also from Sarah Drasner. Links to cool actions, as well as lots of links to documentation and other resources.

Maternity Shoot

I did a maternity shoot a few weeks ago. These are some of my favorite pictures from that session.

Maternity Shoot
Maternity Shoot
Maternity Shoot
Maternity Shoot

The Week In Links - Jan 19, 2019

These are the things that captured my attention in the past week.

» A story of an online stalker takes a bizarre turn down the rabbit hole

I watched this story unfold on Twitter over a weekend, and it kept getting crazier. You should also read Chloe’s own post on the matter..

» The curious case of the Raspberry Pi in the network closet

A story of a completely different sort, but no less interesting. With computers being so compact these days, it’s surprising this doesn’ happen more often.

» AWS For Everyone: New clues emerge about Amazon’s secretive low-code/no-code project

If this is true (seems likely), it will be massively successful. As described, it sounds like the spiritual successor to Yahoo! Pipes, which was way ahead of its time.

» How Airbnb is Moving 10x Faster at Scale with GraphQL and Apollo

I’m starting to experiment with GraphQL. It’s early days, but GraphQL seems like the right solution for a lot of problems.

» iOS Shortcut for Importing Photos into Lightroom

The iPad Pro is starting to play a bigger role in my photography. When I went to Florida on vacation this summer I didn’t take my laptop at all, only my iPad Pro. There are still some awkward bits about working with RAW files on iOS, but overall it’s become capable of handling a lot of things. Also, I’m starting to build/acquire a bunch of iOS shortcuts now. It’s so easy to build them, and I’ve already found a number that I’m using daily.

» Signal v Noise exits Medium

Their reasoning is similar to mine. Perhaps it’s just selection bias but I see this sentiment echoed all over lately.

New Year, New Blog

Once Upon a Time on the Internet

Once upon a time, I had a blog. This was in the days before social media, mostly. I’d occasionally write some longer things, but often times I’d just share links to things I found interesting. Sometimes I shared pictures. I even did a series of interviews at one point. It was never a terribly popular blog, but that wasn’t really the point. It was a creative outlet for me, a chance to work in a different medium - prose instead of code.

I read other people’s blogs as well, which were often the source of the things I found interesting. First with Bloglines, then Google Reader, I followed hundreds of like-minded people and read the things they wrote. It was a simpler time.

Social Media and the Demise of the Blog

Along came Twitter, which was the first social media network I joined, though it was far from the first. It was new and exciting. I enjoyed following people that were interested in the same sorts of things that I was. Twitter at the time had earned a reputation for being banal - mostly people talking about what they were eating for lunch - but nerd twitter wasn’t like that at all. It was a continuous stream of people sharing things they found interesting or posting links to what they’d done. Sometimes it was discussions between people on an interesting topic, discussions that were a lot harder to have in other mediums such as blogs.

Twitter made it trivial to share links and small snippets of daily life. Inevitably, the arrival of new content on my blog slowed. A little at first, but shortly it became a trickle before it stopped altogether. More social media arrived: Facebook made it easy to share things with friends and family, Instagram made sharing photos fun. There was almost no reason to use a blog anymore. I wasn’t alone, a lot of the blogs I read at the time are no more. The people aren’t gone, they’re just posting their thoughts elsewhere.

And Now Here We Are

Fast forward a few years (ok, it’s more than a dozen since this story began). I still use Facebook and Twitter, but noticeably less than I once did. I’ve come to see social media as the junk food of consumption. It tastes good at the time but leaves you feeling unsatisfied. There are still good things there, but they’re increasingly harder to find and you have to wade through a lot of garbage to find them.

I’ve also been missing my creative outlet. I had once enjoyed writing longer pieces, explaining how I’d solved a problem, reviewing a book I’d read, and introducing people to something I’d discovered. That wasn’t really possible in 140 or even 280 characters, not in any meaningful way. I’d also taken up photography as a hobby, and while Instagram and Facebook are fine for sharing that sort of thing, neither is a great forum for it.

Ultimately, I want a digital place to call home, where I control (and own) the content and how it’s presented.

A look around the internet shows I’m not alone. Cal Newport, an author I enjoy who is decidedly anti-social media, has been making the case for blogs. Jeremy Keith is as well, and others too numerous to mention. Countless others never lost the habit and didn’t succumb to the siren call of communicating to the world exclusively in bite-size content.

A Phoenix Rises From the Ashes

So I built a new website. The technical details about what it is and how I built it are a story for another post, but now that it’s up and running this will be the place where I post most things. Links/photos/longer posts will be here, and then I’ll share them on social media. I want to own my own writing, for better or for worse, and there’s really no other way to do that other than your own website at your own domain.

The new blog and this very blog post were actually started a couple of years ago, but that’s how side projects go. This was never a top-of-mind project, but something I’d tinker with from time to time. Life’s a lot busier than it was a dozen years ago, and my attention span isn’t what it used to be (whether social media is partially to blame for that is a topic for another day). But no matter, it’s done now.

This is definitely a work in progress. I brought over most of the content from the earlier versions of this site, but not all of it. Some of that content has been reviewed and revised to correct typos, formatting issues, and dead links, but that will take a while and so if you spend any time in the archives here you’re likely to find all of those things. If you do, feel free to let me know (via Twitter, I suppose, or Github if that’s more your thing.

Cheers to the new year, and to new (old) things.

Best of 2018

I usually take a lot of pictures in a given year, and 2018 was no different. Out of the thousands of pictures I took, these are my favorites. Most are taken with my main camera, a Canon 6D, but some are moments captured with my phone.

Best of 2018
Best of 2018
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Best of 2018

It's a Girl!

It's a Girl!
I was the photographer at a gender reveal party recently. The gender was hidden inside a cake, so cutting it revealed the secret.

On the Beach

On the Beach
Calli at the beach. New Smyrna Beach, FL